Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Face-Lift 1398

Guess the Plot

The Dreamers of Knotty Netherbrook


1. In the small village Knotty Netherbrook, no one dreams. Not anymore. Not since . . . the 'Incident'.

2. In Knotty Netherbrook, a dreamer's dreams after drinking a drachm from the dreaming ditch decide the dreamer's destiny. It's a weird place.

3. Nightmares a problem? Lack of sleep? Want to add spice to those boring dreams about being naked, falling, and going to work? Call the Dreamers of Knotty Netherbrook for a personal morpheus to make bedtime so much more. It'll only cost a few years at the end of your life which you probably would have otherwise spent in cancer-ridden agony anyway.

4. After her family moves to Netherwbrook Cottage, Mia stumbles upon a sanctuary for lost and forgotten imaginary creatures in this sequel to The Magic Animals of Yetanotherbook. The sanctuary is a dream-world created by Anne, the previous resident of the cottage, but with Anne gone, a monster now stalks the grounds, and it's getting stronger. Moving is always such a hassle.

5. The Netherbrook artists colony is more than a bit naughty, and no one knows that better than carpenter-cum-milkman Dick Wilkins. But when the paternity tests come out, will Dick find his own dreams have landed him in a bit too much reality? Also, carbon dating.

6. Night after night, Alison Chaines lies awake in frustration while her useless husband snores next to her. She tries sleep aids but nothing seems to work, until a friend offers her a tiny purple pill that works too well. She slips into a coma and finds herself locked in a dream of Netherbrook, a tiny village in the alps known for serene views, crisp clean air, and ridiculously handsome men who know a thing or two about the art of bondage.



Original Version

Middle child Mia Blake is sick of having to share, be it a room with her little brother or a planet with her depressingly perfect sister. One problem is solved when her parents become caretakers of a rambling country estate, the other - to Mia's considerable alarm - when she stumbles upon a sanctuary for lost and forgotten imaginary creatures. [It's probably clear enough that the 2nd problem is solved, but it might be better to say: Both problems are solved, one when . . . and the other when--to Mia's....]

There she meets Calamancer the fox, who remembers very little but insists it is Anne, his owner, who is lost: Anne, who lived in Netherbrook Cottage before Mia, and created the dream-world she has found. With Anne gone, the sanctuary cannot hold. Already a monster stalks its dark places, devouring nightmares and growing stronger.

Meanwhile, Mia's parents need her help restoring their new home. They're on a shoestring budget and a tight deadline, and every pair of hands counts. If Mia hopes to stay long enough to learn Netherbrook’s secrets, she'll have to pull her weight.

Helping both Calamancer and her parents without dozing off in her dinner is hard enough, but just as Mia starts to think she has something truly special all to herself, she meets Sara.

Sara can also walk in two worlds, and doesn’t like finding Mia there one bit. Sara says Calamancer can’t be trusted, and her dream companion - a dragon - is terrified of him.

As Mia untangles the mystery of Anne’s disappearance, she realises it's no accident her family and Sara's are on a collision course.

Someone knows Mia is special, and wants Anne's sanctuary protected. 

Someone wants it destroyed, and the Blakes gone.

And someone is feeding the monster.

With the sanctuary, her own life, and everything her parents have worked for in danger, Mia must decide: which will she risk, and which will she try to save?

The Dreamers of Knotty Netherbrook is middle-grade contemporary fantasy, complete at 83,000 words. Dreamers is my first novel.


Author's note: About the title: Dreamers was written for my daughter. Noticing a pattern in her choice of reading material I asked if the latest was The Magic Animals of Yetanotherbook. She stuck her tongue out and told me to do better if I could. She says I have, but I wouldn't draw any conclusions from that. So the title is an homage to a dad joke, and the story was written to please one little girl. I hope others will too, one day.


Notes

I like this. If you can do without the red words, it will be about the length of the average agent's attention span.

Not sure we need to know all or any of the following, but I'll ask anyway:

Are Anne's parents the previous caretakers or the owners of the estate? I assume the latter, as otherwise Anne's disappearance isn't a mystery. She moved.

Did Anne disappear while in the dream world or the real world? Either way I assume there'd be a massive search going on in the real world.

So Mia's goal is to find Anne and return her so the sanctuary can "hold"?





Monday, April 27, 2020

New Beginning 1089


WHAT’S A MAN GOTTA DO TO KILL HIMSELF?

I turned Hellfire over in my hands. It’s not easy to get a gun in India, especially when you’re nineteen, but I managed. Don't ask me how. When Castor Castlevere puts his mind to something, it happens.

I put the semi-automatic to my head. The hard part was over. Now all I had to do was pull the trigger.

My fingers refused to cooperate. What was stopping me? I knew I wanted to do this.

With a jolt, I realized I couldn’t tarnish the memory of this house for my family.

Yes, that was it. I wasn’t afraid; the very idea was ludicrous. Castor Castlevere is the bravest, boldest person you’ll ever meet.

I’m also caring and compassionate. Not on the level of a Mother Teresa, but way above the average person. Everything about me is miles above average. That was one reason I wanted to quit this life. How would I ever cope with being something less than other people? Castor
Castlevere, until now always the most brilliant, most handsome guy in class, could never accept being considered a monstrosity, an object of pity or ridicule.

I stood, but somehow I couldn’t put one foot in front of the other to walk out of my bedroom, let alone the house. What was going on?

Light bulb moment! I couldn’t exit this life without letting my family know where to find my body. I wasn’t so selfish as to leave them wondering.

I stepped into the parlor, where my family was having tea and discussing politics. "Castor Castlevere will be found on a bench at the south end of the park," I announced.

"It is rude to interrupt," my father said. "We were discussing important matters."

"Castor Castlevere does not care," I replied boldly. How could any matters be more important than me, anyway? Did I mention I was miles above average?

"Who is that person?" my mother asked. My sister burst out laughing.

"Do not laugh at Castor Castlevere!" I shouted. In addition to being more caring and compassionate than anyone else in the world, I could also become more angry. Everything about me was just … more.

"I am not laughing at Castle Creepyvere," my sister said. "I am laughing at you!"

"Your name is Pradeep," my father said. My mother nodded in agreement.

Lightbulb moment! I didn't want to kill myself after all. The world needed me in it. But something had to be done about this family. I pulled Hellfire from my pocket and pointed it at my father's head, and pulled the trigger. Then the same for my mother. Aiming at my sister, the worst of them all, I pulled the trigger over and over again.

"Where did you get that?" my father asked. My mother looked both shocked and angry. My sister laughed louder than ever. If I am the best of everything, she is exactly the opposite.

It's not easy to get bullets in India, but one day I am going to get some. Don't ask me how. Castor Castlevere's mind is made up about this.



Opening: Crossword.....Continuation: JRMosher



Participation needed


Two titles in the query queue need fake plots.

Use the link in the sidebar.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Face-Lift 1397


Guess the Plot

Masquerade of Princes

1. Sworn enemies, the princes of East Verde and West Rouge meet at a gathering of world leaders. With pandemic protocols in place, they fail to recognize one another as they talk the night away and build something quite a bit more than friendship. Will love survive when the masks come off and they see one another for who they are? Or will they defy social distancing and a century of territorial enmity to come together as one? . . .  Too soon?

2. After Castor Castlevere saves teenager Kaya from being abducted by thugs, she "rewards" him by magically bringing him to a dungeon in which the crown prince of the kingdom of Jandan is being held. The three escape, and Castor saves the day again, and this is the part where Kara is supposed to fall for Castor, but no, she falls in love with the crown prince! Girls. Also, a wicked stepmother.

3. Lydia dresses as a foreign prince at a ball in order to strategize with the princess of a neighboring kingdom on how to heal diplomatic relations. Unfortunately, half the women in that kingdom and three others are now jockeying for his (her) hand and planning to go to war over him (her).

4. Prince Don Yuan masquerades as Prince Xi Zhun at the hunting tournament hoping to discredit his rival, only to discover an imposter masquerading as himself. Before the end of the hunt he will change identities twice, be kidnapped, and uncover/take over a plot to win the hand of fair Lie Shua by eliminating every rival for her hand.

5. Between midnight and dawn, the costumes in the Masquerade of Princes costume shop come to life, acting out their personas and whispering the secrets of those who've worn them. When proprietor Molly Mills's blackmail scheme goes awry, the costumes must save her or face the loss of their home. Hijinks ensue.

6. It goes without saying that a masquerade is full of the most fun outfits. Yet how is Prince Aethelred to choose a dance partner when he can't even tell which people are princesses? Much less which ones are female?


Original Version

Dear (Agent’s Name),

Since you represent fantasy and you say you are interested in seeing #OwnVoices and diverse projects, I'd like to submit to you my humorous multi-cultural fantasy, MASQUERADE OF PRINCES.

I was about to put a bullet into my brain when I met three men who deserved it more.

I'm Castor. I'm nineteen and I have neurofibromatosis, which means I have incurable, non-fatal tumors all over my face and body.

But just when I was about to end it all on the streets of India, I ran into the beautiful Kaya as she was being abducted by three thugs.

 I saved her, and how did she repay me? By transporting me to her land, Jandan, a small kingdom with big secrets.

Sure, travel broadens the mind, but did she have to teleport me to a dungeon in another universe?

Said dungeon held the imprisoned Nikhil, Crown Prince of Jandan. The three of us broke out of prison, only to find life was one damn thing after another, and all before I'd even had my coffee.

The crown pimple got us mired in ever-deepening palace intrigue as we tried to figure out who was trying to kill him, and why. Was it Mira, his wicked stepmother, who wanted to put her own son on the throne? Was it a courtier opposed to Nikhil’s promise to protect and uplift the minorities?

When the King was poisoned, and Nikhil framed for it, I had to come up with a way to prove his innocence. All while battling his mother, who wanted to kill me for my wisecracking ways and my encouraging Nikhil to defy unjust authority.

You'd think Kaya would be impressed by all I was doing to help her and her country, but who does she fall in love with? The crown pest.

Are the teen years really supposed to be this complicated?

MASQUERADE OF PRINCES is the first book of a series that speaks to themes of inclusiveness and diversity. It’s set in an alternate universe India that is struggling for freedom from colonial rule. The minorities being persecuted in Jandan are based on Indian Muslims. The political intrigue in my story echoes the past and current political situation in India.

I have pasted the first ten pages below.

I’m an Indian woman living in India. I grew up in Bahrain, an island in the Middle East, and returned to India to do my BA and MA in English Literature. Having experienced India from both afar and within gives me a certain unique perspective on its culture and politics.

I was raised Catholic and am now an agnostic. I have firsthand experience of being a minority in a country where Christians and Muslims have been attacked and killed for their religion.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,



Notes

I would move the 1st paragraph down below the plot summary.

1st person is also unusual for the plot summary. Not that there's anything wrong with unusual, but I think this opening would be more effective for the novel than for the query, with a few tweaks. Something like:.

I was about to put a bullet into my brain when I saw three men who deserved it more.

They were trying to abduct the beautiful Kaya on L. J. Street in Mumbai. I ran to her rescue, and the thugs ran off, and how did she repay me? By transporting me to her home kingdom, Jandan. Sure, travel broadens the mind, but couldn't we have teleported to a beach or an amusement park? Instead of a dungeon in another universe? Girls.

#

I'm Castor Castlevere. I'm nineteen and I have neurofibromatosis, which means I have incurable, non-fatal tumors all over my face and body. [At this point you can tell more about yourself, including what has driven you to considering suicide. Then pick up the story in Jandan.]


If you prefer to use this as your query opening, I think it works better in 3rd person, and present tense. Castor Castlevere is about to put a bullet into his brain when he sees three men who deserve it more.

They're trying to abduct the beautiful Kaya on L. J. Street in Mumbai. Castor runs to her rescue, etc. etc.

The plot summary is a bit long. See if you can get it down to ten sentences tops.

You call the book humorous, and the humor is obvious in your voice and several of the plot details. But your description after the summary, stressing the themes of struggle against colonialism and religious persecution leave me wondering if the book is too heavy-handed in its treatment of these issues. You're telling a story, not preaching. If you want to convey that religion and politics are important, show it in the plot rather than telling us after the fact. You say in the plot summary "Was it a courtier opposed to Nikhil’s promise to protect and uplift the minorities?" That may be enough.

The agent will want to know your word count. And since your main characters are teens, she will want to know if the book is YA, intended mainly for teens.

If English isn't your first language, or even if it is, your command of it is impressive. And plenty of US agents are looking for #OwnVoices and diversity.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Feedback Request


The author of the book whose query was most recently featured here would like feedback on the following version:


Dear Agent,

I hope this message finds you healthy. Based on your interest in Romance and LGBTQ stories, I thought you might be interested in my manuscript, The Glorious Prince.

Fred, a painting prodigy, decides to reveal himself as the secret
admirer of Iraqi-American fratboy, Malek. However, Fred was not
counting on his straight crush being drunk when they meet, nor the car
accident that lands him in the hospital. [Not clear which one lands in the hospital.] The legal aftermath sees Malek forced to make semimonthly visitations to Fred. [All your verbs in this paragraph are present tense except "was" which is past.] [So a judge orders a guy who hospitalized someone else to visit that person regularly? That sounds like a recipe for disaster. A restraining order seems more likely than forcing them together.]

Fred sees a king in Malek and bends spine, neck, and knees, confessing
his urge to serve him. Predicting his discomfort, Fred paints Malek as
the glorious ruler of mythical worlds, and these paintings come to
life in a way his previous works never have. [Bending spine, neck and knees sounds more like what happened to Malek in the car accident. You don't need it. I'm also not sure what "predicting his discomfort" means. I'm guessing you mean "Attempting to overcome Malek's discomfort...." or maybe "
Despite Malek's obvious discomfort...." Even this could be misconstrued; is the discomfort physical as Malek recovers in the hospital, or is it Fred's mere presence that makes Malek uncomfortable?]

Malek is flattered by the paintings and starts to enjoy dominating
Fred, but fearing exposure and social ridicule, Malek orders Fred to
trash them. Instead, Fred sells the paintings to pay rent, too proud
to ask his homophobic father for cash. [Move "
sells the paintings to pay rent" to the end of the sentence.] [Ordering Fred to trash the paintings is a bit severe when he could just politely ask Fred to add a beard and mustache or a scar and eye patch.]

Not only do the paintings sell, there is demand for more. While Malek
must confront his new feelings toward Fred, Fred must decide between
honoring the trust of his dominant, and the breakthrough of his
career. [It sounds like it's too late too honor the trust, having already broken it, and if the guy can't even afford to pay his rent, it seems like a no-brainer to go with his career and hope to find a new crush next week.]

The novel should appeal to readers of Just a Bit Dirty (Alessandra
Hazard), and Tampa (Alissa Nutting), but with the added elements of
artistry and the Arab immigrant experience. An independent editor
helped polish the novel. [Whoa. I only helped polish the query. I'm not taking the blame for the novel.] Complete at 84,684 words, the book has a(n)
HFN, series potential, and is set in modern Washington, D.C.


Thank you for your time and consideration.


Notes

I know the answers to some of my comments from having read the previous versions, but the agent won't have seen those versions.


Monday, April 06, 2020

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured most recently here would like feedback on this new version of the query. My feedback, for what it's worth, is to consider removing everything I've colored red, adding or addressing the blue, and see if it reads better.



For millennia, magic has been the exclusive domain of a select group of men; stolen from witches, crafted into books, catalogued in a vast and ancient library, for these men alone to wield. In women, magic is raw and emotional; written down it is easy to control and pure in form. [But] All magic controlled by a few doesn’t sit well with everyone. To wrest control of the library, one of these desperate men [man], Matthew, will do anything, even give magic to a woman.

Alexandrea Hawthorne doesn’t know she’s that woman. A spell cast by her father left her unable to see, hear, or know magic. A recurring nightmare, a lost memory of Matthew murdering her parents, is her only warning of the incredible danger as Matthew demands her participation as his willing pawn. He believes she is the key to [cooperation in] freeing magic from the Library. He will use her to create his own book, containing all magic stolen from the library, a process she cannot [might not?] survive. 

Breaking the spell is the first trial she must endure; only then can she learn about magic. Once she knows magic is real and discovers her father and Matthew were collaborators, Alexandrea must decide: Did her father work with Matthew for his benefit or did he secretly want Alexandrea to keep the magic for herself?

Alexandrea does not know what her father intended for her. She only knows what she believes is right: She must return magic to women, even if Doing so will not only [might] pit her [Matthew] against [her] Matthew, but those men controlling the library. To succeed, she needs Matthew's [unwitting?] help, and for that, she must [convince]  make him believe she will help him in return. To negotiate the maze of dangers, Alexandrea must trust even those who seek to do her harm.

THE BOOKS OF ALEXANDREA, 125,000-word adult urban fantasy, unfolds in a contemporary world where few believe in magic. [In P.1 you say: All magic controlled by a few doesn’t sit well with everyone. Now you say few believe in magic. The "everyone" in the first paragraph suggests a lot of people, but there aren't a lot of people who believe in magic. Even women who call themselves witches doubt its existence. My book contains women of diverse backgrounds and orientations.


In 2019, I published A GOAT AND TEN COINS OF SILVER in World of Myth Magazine and GOODNIGHT in Exposition Review’s February Flash-405 Contest (republished in 2020).

Thank you for your time and consideration.